General Etiquette > general

S/O of the Store Line and Cellphone thread

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This is an offshoot of the other thread, but I wanted to ask the opinion on this.
Danika said

--- Quote ---There have been times when I was in line, without a cart and without anyone behind me. I only had a few things in one hand and then I saw a magazine or a package of gum and walked 2 feet away, for 2 seconds, to grab it and come back in line. Then, when I turned around, I saw that someone had taken my place in line because they didn't think I was in line.
--- End quote ---

Was she actually still in line at that point?  Or did she relinquish it when she stepped away?  What if she had had a basket and left it in the line to walk the 2 feet away?  Still in line?
If she was still in line, at what distance away would she not have been?  Two feet vs four?  At what point does getting out of line mean you've lost your spot and have to join at the back?
I'm posing that as a true question - I'm not sure I know the answer to it myself!  But what do you think?

I feel that I am in line when I am finished shopping and prepared to put my items on the belt/counter as soon as there is space.

I think it's okay for someone to step ahead of me if I move myself and my stuff far enough away from the belt/counter to create an opening they can easily slip into without bumping me. If they have to jostle me they know they're cutting but if they can smoothly get in line it's reasonable to assume they thought I was still browsing and not ready to go. It would be nice if they noticed I was still there and said "Oh, I thought you were leaving the line. You can have your spot back." but they aren't obligated. When DH and I are together and realize we missed something one of us will wait in line while the other runs to get the thing. If the runner isn't back by the time it's the waiter's turn we'll either let the next shopper go ahead or start the transaction and, if the runner doesn't make it back before the transaction is finished, get in the back of the line and pay for the extra item separately. I can't stand it when the cashier is ready to get started and someone is saying "One sec, I'm sure he'll be right back..." Step to the side if you aren't ready!

I think a basket left in your spot if you literally walk a couple of feet away still counts as being in line. I wouldn't expect someone to push my basket off to the side ad take my place if I was right there within grabbing distance of it. Sometimes people will put their basket down and browse the magazines and little doo-dads that are stocked there while they wait. Heck, the store is hoping you'll do that  ;).

As far as carts there have been a few times I've approached a check stand and seen a full cart with nobody around. I'm going ahead of an unmanned cart. If I could see that the person was hurrying back because they'd forgotten one item I'd step behind them, we've all been there. Those people who do 3/4 of their shopping and then get in line and finish the last little bit? Nope. You aren't done, you aren't in line.

I think it's one of life's little awkward situations, where even if you had multi-angle video footage and some diagrams, there wouldn't necessarily be any clearcut answers.

You really just have to go with your gut, I think. Nobody likes waiting in line, and I think in general it's rude to hold up the line. As the drifter moves up in line and gets closer to being "at bat," I think the onus is on them to pay attention and be ready to start with the cashier promptly. If the drifter isn't in position, and the next person is standing there waiting, I think the next person ought to just go ahead, and the drifter can't complain about it. Maybe the next person will let the drifter go in front of them, or maybe the drifter has to go to the end of the line--you snooze, you lose kind of thing.

It gets trickier if we're talking about positions 6 and 7 out of 10, though. If I were #7, I think I would always let #6 back in front of me (if they wanted), even if they'd drifted completely out of view, as long as we weren't at the point of setting things on the counter in front of the cashier. But some people wouldn't, and I don't think they'd be completely wrong. I think if your place in line is really important to you--like you need to get home by a certain time--the onus is on you to stay fully in line, and not introduce any ambiguity into it.

I *know* I'll be in the minority or even on my own on this one so I'll just get it out of the way shall I? :P

I think as long as you are within sight of your spot and you don't hold people, including the cashier, up then you are fine. I say that having been a cashier and having seen plenty of people nip off to grab a candy bar or magazine a few steps away and even a few registers over. As long as they were quick about it and got back before it was their turn, I considered them to be in line. If there was a dispute over who was next, I would tell others that person had been there before them and it was generally accepted and that was the end of it.

Note that I was also quick to boot people I saw as cutting back to their place, for example when my line was empty I'd ask the "next person" over and insist that anyone trying to hurry over before them would have to wait. I felt I was in the best position to see who was where when (mostly because I was a captive audience to customer antics and because I was more aware of the line than most customers would be) and wasn't afraid to tell people what I saw as the most fair solution. As far as I know, no one ever had a problem with it.

If I leave a grocery cart in a cashier line while while I grab a candy bar from the next aisle, I would be pretty irritated if someone moved my cart and went in front of me.  But if there was no place holder visible to another customer because I was carrying all my items then I wouldn't expect to be able to retain my space. 


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